How Will the Rays Move On Without Alex Cobb?

By Robbie Knopf

The past few days has led to a whirlwind of emotions for Rays fans regarding right-hander Alex Cobb. Entering Cobb’s May 15th start, Rays fans’ biggest concern regarding Alex Cobb was that he had allowed 6 runs in his last start. And then, in the 5th inning it happened–Eric Hosmer‘s line drive hit off Cobb’s head and his right ear and Cobb exited the game in a stretcher. Even after that, though, things were looking up again as Cobb had only suffered a mild concussion. That, though, was only a fleeting glimmer of hope. As it turned out, his ear injury was far more serious than his head injury was his ear, and a yet-to-be-disclosed ear problem could potentially sideline him for the rest of the season. And now that Cobb is gone, what will the Rays do without him?

The good news for the Rays is that Cobb is going but another high-profile pitcher is coming back. David Price is beginning his rehab assignment and could be only a couple of starts away from returning to the major leagues. Cobb had been the Rays’ de facto ace for most of the season, and the Rays hope their established ace can come back and replace Cobb seamlessly. But what about the rest of the rotation? Just like Cobb replaced Jeff Niemann (twice), someone will have to replace Cobb.

Jeremy Hellickson goes for the Rays tonight and the Rays hope he can rebound. Matt Moore has hit a rough spot but we all know how talented he is. Roberto Hernandez has been pitching better of late and may very well live up to his contract by the time the year draws to a close. But who’s the fifth starter? Chris Archer has been inconsistent replacing Price. Jake Odorizzi struggled in his first few appearances but looked great in his last time out. And then there’s Alex Colome, who pitched great in his MLB debut but hasn’t done anything since. The good news is that the Rays have options. And with Price coming back to provide the star power, all the Rays need from whichever rookie steps in is a fifth starter.

Who should have the edge? Obviously it should be whoever pitches the best, but if there’s a pitcher with a tiebreaker, it’s Odorizzi. Odorizzi is a little similar to Cobb with a promising changeup and big curveball, but more importantly he’s a pitcher who isn’t as overpowering and may not strike out any batters but could go deeper into games as he adjusts to major league hitters. In addition, Archer looks like he needs work on his control and Colome has to do a better job pounding the ball down in the zone. Odorizzi, meanwhile, may not have their upside but could be more big league-ready. Odorizzi, like Cobb, entered this season without a clear place in the Rays organization, but suddenly his opportunity has arisen. It would be quite appropriate for Odorizzi to seize the opportunity–and if he doesn’t, one of the Rays’ talented young pitchers certainly will.